Various diseases and pestilences are called plagues in the OT; they are often seen as divine punishment (Deut. 28:21). But pre-eminently it is the ten plagues visited on Egypt that were ingrained in Hebrew memory or folklore (Exod. 7–12). The narratives are a combination of the J and P sources, the latter emphasizing the drama as a contest between God and Pharaoh. All except the last were regular and natural phenomena in Egypt but are exaggerated in the biblical version. Their miraculous character could derive from the remarkable coincidences of their timing. At any rate the Hebrews saw in them the providential care of their God Yahweh, as in Ps. 78:43–51. Even the last plague, the death of the first-born, could have been an infectious illness which was confined to the Egyptians. See also Exodus, the.

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